Posted in Front Page News

By Ben Pollard

The Vic Metro team has won its first three games at the AFL Under-18 Championships, but the remaining two rounds against South Australia and Vic Country will be its biggest test. These matches will also be important for players to show recruiters and the wider football world what they can do.

There are nine former SMJFL juniors in the Vic Metro squad and with the final two games of the Championships to be played in Victoria, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to head along and see them in action. Let’s detail who they are and get Sandringham Dragons region manager Ryan O’Connor to give his thoughts on each:

Karl Amon

DOB: 19/08/95

Height/Weight: 180cm/73kg

Junior clubs: East Sandringham/Hampton

In a nutshell: Silky-skilled midfielder. Good athletic mix of speed and endurance.

ROC says: “Karl has improved a lot in a short space of time. Since about five or six rounds to go last year to now, he has really jumped ahead of a lot of guys. He started the year very well and then had a little bit of a flat spot, but I think that comes with other sides paying more attention to you. He has a lot of elite traits.”

Nathan Freeman

DOB: 16/06/95

Height/Weight: 181cm/85kg

Junior club: Dingley

In a nutshell: Burst-running midfielder. Excitement machine. Sandringham leadership group member.

ROC says: “Nathan’s probably the best burst-running midfielder in the TAC Cup at the moment and has to be elevating his claims come draft time. He has really taken well to a more defensive focus so his game is not just all-out attack, which it might have been previously. I think that has come about through his work rate and his desire.”

Max Hayes

DOB: 29/01/95

Height/Weight: 191cm/86kg

Junior club: East Brighton

In a nutshell: Sandringham co-captain. Intense and physical lead-up forward. Strong contested mark.

ROC says: “For Max, I think his work rate is his key, because he’ll work defenders over and stay involved. That’s what he has over other players at the moment. He’s probably not overly tall, but because of his physicality he can also pinch-hit in the ruck and it’s always good to have another string to the bow.”

Josh Kelly

DOB: 12/02/95

Height/Weight: 182cm/73kg

Junior club: East Brighton

In a nutshell: Midfielder with clean hands and beautiful skills. Consummate professional. Sandringham leadership group member.

ROC says: “Josh is probably our best all round footballer. There’s very little missing from the package, so if you like to tick your boxes there’s quite a few ticked. He seems to be able to handle the TAC Cup level quite nicely and he’s probably crying out for another little challenge.”

Elliot Le Grice

DOB: 07/08/95

Height/Weight: 192cm/90kg

Junior clubs: East Sandringham/Hampton

In a nutshell: Athletic key-position tall with ability to play forward or back. Sandringham leadership group member.

ROC says: “I think Elliot’s one who doesn’t quite understand how much impact he can actually have on a game. Once his confidence level comes up, he’ll really be able to put his hand up further. He’s probably the best athletic package for his size in the TAC Cup with his pace and endurance, so he just needs to translate that into having an impact on the game now.”

Sean McLaren

DOB: 10/01/96

Height/Weight: 197cm/91kg

Junior club: Beaumaris

In a nutshell: Bottom-ager. Good mix of size, speed and endurance. Ability to play as a key forward or ruckman.

ROC says: “I also think that Sean is another young player who doesn’t realise how much impact he can have on the game just yet.  Look out when he does, as I think he’s going to be a very exciting footballer. He has taken some really good marks late in games and kicked crucial goals to get us over the line. It has been really good to see a young fella get his chance and really stake a claim.”

Lachie Ritchie

DOB: 03/02/95

Height/Weight: 189cm/78kg

Junior clubs: East Brighton/St Peters

In a nutshell: Hard and physical defender. Can play on talls or smalls. First year playing TAC Cup football.

ROC says: “Lachie has probably got to work on his disposal a little bit, but in contested situations his ability to just make a contest or get a hand in has been fantastic. It has happened pretty quickly for him because he didn’t play TAC Cup football as a bottom-ager. I think he needed a bit of self-belief, but this selection is just reward based on his effort in pre-season and form in games.”

Christian Salem

DOB: 15/07/95

Height/Weight: 183cm/82kg

Junior club: Hampton

In a nutshell: Big physical midfielder. Clean skills and a good overhead mark. Sandringham leadership group member.

ROC says: “Christian’s a very exciting player. He picks the right attacking options without biting off too much and seems to make something happen when he’s around the ball. He also seems to impact the scoreboard in just about every game he plays, which I think is a feature for a midfielder.”

Alex Spencer

DOB: 19/04/95

Height/Weight: 193cm/83kg

Junior club: East Brighton

In a nutshell: Has the size and shape to play forward or back. Missed much of 2012 through injury.

ROC says: “Alex has a lot of natural ability. He may have lacked a little bit of concentration and focus in the past, but he has a beautiful long left foot and marks the ball well out in front and judges it well in the air. We’ve probably played him in more of an attacking role, but in a draft that doesn’t have a lot of key defenders he might be able to put his hand up that way.”

AFL Under-18 Championships, Rounds 4 & 5:

Round 4

Vic Metro vs South Australia

Friday June 28, 2.35pm

Simonds Stadium, Geelong

Round 5

Vic Metro vs Vic Country

Wednesday July 3, 5.35pm

Etihad Stadium